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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Is Carmelo Anthony an Elite Level Player?

Carmelo Anthony's act of shoot first and don't answer questions later has worn thin with Denver Coach George Karl, Nuggets fans and the media--not that what the media thinks of Anthony should be his top priority but it is also is not a great sign of leadership when he is "ducking out the side door at practice while Iverson is stuck with the media nags," as the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla wrote in a scathing indictment of Anthony's deficiencies. Karl's biggest concern about Anthony is his overall maturity level: "I've told Melo in the last two weeks, 'I don't think you're listening. I don't think you're listening as well as you need to listen.' For me, the next step is to change the democracy back to a dictatorship." What exactly does that mean? Karl spelled it out point blank when he was asked if he would bench the NBA's leading scorer: "I think that's the next move." Karl dug up an interesting statistical nugget (no pun intended) to support his contention that Anthony is focusing too much on scoring: Anthony had more points/rebounds double-doubles in one year at Syracuse than he has had in nearly four NBA seasons.

Some observers tried to sell the public a bill of goods about Anthony, starting last summer during the FIBA World Championship. Supposedly Anthony had turned things around and was now worthy of being included in the same category as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. I watched Team USA's games and was much less impressed than others seemed to be with Anthony's play. Anthony was later honored as the 2006 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year--but, as I noted during the summer after Anthony was selected to the All-World Championship Team, he offset the fact that he was Team USA's leading scorer with his poor defense. After Greece defeated Team USA, one commentator went so far as to write, "The one player who I found myself most often rewinding and saying 'what the hell was he doing?' was Carmelo Anthony. Most of the time he was away from the play and managed to simultaneously not guard his man and not help either. I have not watched the other games this closely, but after watching this game I would have a very hard time making a case for Anthony being our MVP."

I did the Denver Nuggets preview for Lindy's Pro Basketball 2006-07 and clearly stated that Anthony's name should not be mentioned in the same breath with the game's top players: "Carmelo Anthony's third season was his best one yet, but the time when he was compared to fellow '03 draftees LeBron James and Dwyane Wade seems like a distant memory now. Anthony improved his questionable shot selection and lackadaisical defense, but still needs more work in both areas. He does have a propensity for hitting game-winning shots but has yet to show the ability to dominate an entire game or a playoff series like James and Wade can. The difference is that those guys can affect a game in multiple ways, while Anthony's impact is felt almost exclusively in the scoring column. He is a subpar rebounder for his size and the position he plays, nor does he get a lot of assists, steals or blocks."

The sad part is that Anthony clearly has a lot of talent and at some level he knows how to play the game the right way; after all, he led Syracuse to a national championship as a freshman. Somehow, Anthony's game has regressed in the NBA even as his scoring average has soared. Karl is equally frustrated and hopeful, saying in one breath, "And, right now, what you're saying is basically, 'When is Melo going to get it?' Is it going to be next month?' As a coach, there's no one more frustrated, there's no one more angry than me, because I feel the pain" and then noting, "I think what you're baffled by is you see a guy who could be a top-five player in basketball." The question is whether Anthony is willing to adjust his attitude in order to reach his full potential as a player. On Tuesday night Anthony had 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a 106-91 win over the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. Those are the kind of all-around numbers that Karl would like to see. Was that just a one time deal against a sub-.500 team or has Anthony taken his coach's words to heart?

posted by David Friedman @ 11:58 PM



At Saturday, March 10, 2007 2:45:00 PM, Blogger The Quest for the Ring said...

I disagree. Here is an excerpt from my report on a Nuggets game on a forum:

The first thing to worry about with respect to whether the Nuggets can address their problems and avoid being bounced in 4 or 5 games in the playoffs, or not making the playoffs at all, is George Karl, who is one of the problems himself and who is, according to a "Denver Post" story, starting to try to blame Melo for the Nuggets not being able to compete with the Big 6. This is extremely unfair and totally wrong. Unless you think that Melo can get Najera to get open alot more and contribute 7-17 points almost every game instead of just 3 out of 10 games, and that he can get Kleiza, Blake, Camby, and Diawara to start hitting shots that corresponding players on the other teams are hitting, Karl is wasting time and creating a straw man to divert attention from his questionable rotations, the poor Nuggets bench, the mess at PF, the inexcusable turnovers, and the poor defense.

Melo does not control where Najera goes on the court or how Blake, Kleiza and Diawara shoot their jumpers. And he is too young to assist Nuggets coaches in coaching the mechanics of basketball. Melo is averaging 4.1 assists and 6.0 rebounds a game, which are career highs, while at the same time leading the NBA is scoring, with a FG shooting percentage of .478. There are only 3 high scoring small forwards in the NBA who are getting more rebounds than Melo per game: Caron Butler at 7.5, LeBron James at 6.7, and Ron Artest at 6.6. And there is only one small forward who is averaging more assists than Melo per game, LeBron James with 5.8. No, Karl is in danger of becoming like a dog who barks up the wrong tree. Certain annoying older dogs tend to do this more and more, the older they get. Oh well, if the Nuggets fall apart and Karl loses his job, he can hope to coach LeBron in Cleveland, who is the only player left in the NBA who comes close to Karl's ideal of the perfect basketball player.

At Saturday, March 10, 2007 3:11:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

"Elite" means best of the best. You listed three "high scoring" (not sure how you defined this) small forwards who outrebound Melo. Don't forget that Melo is also a poor defensive player. If he is an "elite" player then he should be able to raise the games of non-elite players. Denver has much more talent than the Lakers, who have been a solid playoff team all year because of Kobe Bryant and are still in the top eight despite missing both starting forwards, the backup small forward and other players (in addition to starting a CBA level point guard who is probably the worst starting point guard in the league and certainly worse than anyone in the West). What kind of record do you think a nucleus of Kobe-Iverson-Camby would have? Is there any way that team would be below .500?

As for Najera, scoring has never been part of his job description. He is a scrappy role player who plays defense. I'm sure Kobe would like to have someone like him on the Lakers.

Melo is a talented player but he is not an elite one.

At Saturday, March 10, 2007 7:13:00 PM, Blogger The Quest for the Ring said...

Carmelo Anthony is underrated by so many people that I took some time and came up with a relatively simple but surprisingly effective statistical comparison of the very best players in the NBA. Using the up to the minute stats at www.dougstats.com, I used the following performance indicators to come up with a "Gross Defense & Team Play Index":

Offensive Rebounds
Total Rebounds

This index measures defense much more than it measures team play; you could double or triple the assists even it out more. I used the per 48 minutes stats across the board to eliminate differences caused by differences in playing time per game among the best players.

Here are the top 10 on the limited measure, which correspond to what fans think of when they think of defensive superstars:

Duncan 27.6
Okafur 27.6
Garnett 27.3
Kidd 26.7
Howard, D 26.6
Boozer 25.8
Ilgauskas 25.7
O'Neill, J 24.8
O'Neal, S 24.5
Ming 23.3
Gasol 23.3
Brand 23.2
Stoudemire 23.0

Carmelo Anthony, a more offensively oriented player than these, scores 17.4 on this. Kobe Bryant is at 17.0 and LeBron James is at 18.5.

Then, I subtracted the turnovers per 48 minutes to get the "Net Defense & Team Play Index". Melo takes a hit here because he gets slightly more turnovers per 48 minutes than other top players.

If you stopped there you would have a limited result, appreciated only by those who are biased in favor of defense and big men who use their sheer size to produce on the court. But games up to and including the Championship are decided by points, not by which team gets the most rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.

On the other hand, if you simply add the points per 48 minutes, that might bias things too much in favor of scoring for the tastes of those who appreciate the other aspects of the game. And you have the simple mathematical fact that a score counts for 2 or sometimes 3 points, even though it is one event. So I simply divided the points per 48 minutes by 2, to come up with a basic but useful and effective "Offensive Punch" Index, and then added the result to the "Net Defense and Team Play Index".

Dividing the points by two, obviously, leaves the results still at least somewhat biased in favor of defensively oriented players such as Boozer and Dwight Howard. The resulting index, which I am simply calling "Total Player Value" for now, is biased in favor of power forwards and centers over guards, with small forwards being somewhere in the middle.

The Results:

Garnett PF 37.9
Duncan PF 37.7
Boozer PF 36.7
Camby C 36.5
O'Neal, S C 36.1
Ming C 35.8
Nowitzki PF 35.4
Okafor C 35.3
O'Neill, J C 34.1
Stoudemire C 34.0
Wade SG 33.7
Gasol PF 33.4
Howard, D PF 33.4
Brand PF 33.1
Bosh PF 33.0
Ilgauskus C 32.5
Kidd PG 32.3
Marion PF 31.2
Anthony SF 31.1
McGrady SG 31.0
James SF 30.7
Davis PG 30.6
Bryant SG 30.4
Nash PG 29.8
Webber C 29.5
Arenas PG 29.0
Carter SG 29.0
Okur C 28.4
Butler SF 28.0
Pierce SF 27.6
Odom PF 27.4
Allen SG 26.2
Parker T PG 24.6
Iverson PG 24.0
Redd SG 23.8
Prince SF 22.2

Melo is the 19th most valuable player in the league, according to this statistic, which emphasizes everything other than scoring more than scoring. Centers and power forwards are 16 of the 18 players ahead of Melo. Only SG Dwayne Wade at position 11 and PG Jason Kidd at position 17 are not centers or power forwards.

There are over 400 active players in the NBA. I'd say elite would cover the top 5 percent at least, which would be the top 20. Melo would squeak in. Of course, someone more particular might want to limit the elite to the top 10 or 15.

I have to note this too: Melo is slightly more valuable than Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Steve Nash, Gilbert Arenas, Baron Davis, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and the others you can see. Yet if you took a popularity survey, most of these other players would be considered better overall players than Melo. Aside from suffering alot of bias in general for reasons that are too complicated to discuss here, Melo specifically suffers from being such an efficient scorer, because many fans assume that someone who scores so much can not possibly be doing much (or at least enough)of the other things that win basketball games.

But the facts show otherwise: Melo IS doing enough of the other things for him to be considered an elite player already. And since he is young, he will probably get even better in the future.

Once they see the facts, only those very biased in favor of size and defense are still going to insist that Melo is not one of the very best pro basketball players playing today.

At Saturday, March 10, 2007 8:10:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

You obviously spent a lot of time and effort putting these numbers together. Your passion for basketball is quite commendable. Nevertheless, you have not proven that Melo is an elite player.

First, before even discussing the merits of your methodology let's look at your conclusion. You conclude that Melo is the 19th most valuable player in the NBA. At the end of the season, three All-NBA teams are selected, recognizing the top 15 players in the league. By your account, despite having a career year, Melo would not make that cut (he did make All-NBA Third Team last year, though I wonder if he would have using your system).

I don't know how "elite" the All-NBA Third Team should be considered to be, either. For a long time there were only two All-NBA Teams. When I say "elite," I am thinking of MVP caliber players, which limits the discussion primarily to the first two All-NBA Teams (with a few exceptions, like if there are four great centers but only two can make the first two All-NBA Teams because of positional designations).

You have to believe in a pretty big conspiracy theory to go along with the idea that Melo is simply the victim of bias. The fans have never voted him into the All-Star Game. OK, maybe the fans are not that well informed. However, the coaches have never voted him on to the All-Star Team, either (he made it this year as a special injury selection by David Stern). Melo has made the All-NBA Team (selected by the media) once. Why exactly should fans, coaches and media all be singling him out?

If you look again at your final list objectively, you will see that several of its rankings are highly questionable. Do you really believe that Ilgauskas is more valuable than LeBron James? Or that Pau Gasol is better than Kidd, T-Mac, James and Bryant? I actually disagree with some of those rankings more than placing Melo 19th. I don't have Melo in my top 10--which would be as far as my "elite" list would go--but if I started listing 11-20 and 21-30 I'm sure Melo would fit in there somewhere, so 19 could be right or pretty close. Still, I'm skeptical of the overall results that your system produced. Also, Boozer is too high, Okafor is WAY too high and some other rankings are questionable as well.

At Saturday, March 10, 2007 9:26:00 PM, Blogger The Quest for the Ring said...

As I said, the ranking above was something I put together to check for myself whether Melo is an elite player or not. I used a relatively simple additive formula, though the results are far better than they would otherwise be due to the use of the per 48 minutes measures. As I said, that forumula is biased in favor of very defensively oriented players, and the top 20 positions are mostly centers and power forwards, as you can see in the previous post. In other words, the formula is biased against a player who puts scoring above everything else, such as Melo.

I never said that this is the way I would rate the players, though most of the players listed would appear on my list, but in a different order.

By refraining from dividing the points per 48 minutes by 2, and simply adding the points per 48 minutes to all the other performance measures per minute, you get a less biased measure, though some would argue that now there is a small bias in favor of scorers.

Melo becomes the 9th best player in the NBA:

Ming 53.6
Nowitzki 52.0
Garnett 51.7
Duncan 51.7
Wade 51.5
O'Neal, S 51.3
Boozer 51.1
Nash 50.7
Anthony 49.8
Stoudemire 49.0
McGrady 47.6
Bosh 47.5
Gasol 47.3
O'Neill, J 47.2
James 46.7
Arenas 46.0
Brand 46.0
Okafor 45.3
Howard, D 45.3
Carter 44.9
Camby 44.5
Davis 44.0
Pierce 43.7
Ilgauskas 42.4
Marion 42.4
Allen 42.1
Okur 41.5
Kidd 41.4
Redd 40.6
Butler 39.8
Webber 39.8
Iverson 38.6
Bryant 38.4
Parker, T 38.0
Odom 37.5
Prince 31.4

This is closer to how I would rate the players, though even I would probably have a little more bias in favor of rebounders and assist specialists than there is in this simple formula. Melo would most likely end up ranked in the low teens if I spent, say, 100 hours working on a complex formula.

This list is less biased against scoring, so more folks will tend to agree with the rankings, except that many will disagree that Melo should be ranked so high.

Now, why is it that the views about Melo are different from the facts? I could write a book about bias; and there are probably at least two dozen sources of the extensive bias in the way that people look at how Anthony plays. Let me mention three.

In order to easily win the all-star voting, or MVP recognition, a player must play for a solid team, a "legitimate contender" The Nuggets were 17-65 in the year before Melo arrived, and they were 43-39 in the year after he arrived. They were just about the worst team in the league before he got there and then they have been slightly above average since he got there. He has improved the team as much as one man can.

Even Michael Jordan did not immediately produce a winning team in Chicago, The Bulls were a losing team for the first 4 years Jordan was on the team. They were 30-52 in his second year, 1985-86. There were no internet posters or misguided coaches trying to blame Jordan for all of that losing back then. By contrast, Melo is under a microscope in today's world.

The Nugget's position in the NBA has not changed much since Melo's arrival in Denver. The Iverson thing, it turns out, is not in and of itself going to make the Nuggets a legitimate contender, as we can now plainly see. It's alot to do about nothing, as Shakespeare said. The Nuggets are still losing almost every game they play against the top teams of the West. If you were to take away Melo from the Nuggets right now, but leave Iverson, you would have the Sixers of the West, one of the very worst teams in the League. Anyone who plays on such a team is going to face a substantial fan (and coach community) bias against being considered an elite player. There are alot of folks in Denver right now who are being harder on Melo than folks anywhere else.

More generally, the Denver front office is struggling to make Denver a "basketball town," but they have not yet succeeded. It is still a football, baseball, and hockey town more than it is a basketball town.

A second bias I will mention, which is obvious if you think about it, is age. Melo had only one year of college and is only 22 years old. He hasn't "paid his dues" yet like, say, Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash have. Fans are still not as familier with him as they are with the established "elite players".

A third bias I will mention is that he grew up in extremely low income neighborhoods, whereas the vast majority of the popular elite players grew up in neighborhoods that were at least close to average economically. There are those who automatically associate low income neighborhoods with criminality and other shady things, which is a real drag on any pro basketball player's reputation. For more information on this, you could consult Allen Iverson, who has become an expert on this bias.

At Saturday, March 10, 2007 9:58:00 PM, Blogger The Quest for the Ring said...

In the previous post, I made a transcription error on the Nash and the Bryant calculations. Nash should be 42.7 and Bryant should be much higher at 48.0. Melo remains slightly ahead of Bryant and goes ahead of Nash with these corrections.

Sorry, I was working a little too quickly; I am sure everything is correct now.

Corrected Complete List:

Ming 53.6
Nowitzki 52.0
Garnett 51.7
Duncan 51.7
Wade 51.5
O'Neal, S 51.3
Boozer 51.1
Anthony 49.8
Stoudemire 49.0
Bryant 48.0
McGrady 47.6
Bosh 47.5
Gasol 47.3
O'Neill, J 47.2
James 46.7
Arenas 46.0
Brand 46.0
Okafor 45.3
Howard, D 45.3
Carter 44.9
Camby 44.5
Davis 44.0
Pierce 43.7
Nash 42.7
Ilgauskas 42.4
Marion 42.4
Allen 42.1
Okur 41.5
Kidd 41.4
Redd 40.6
Butler 39.8
Webber 39.8
Iverson 38.6
Parker, T 38.0
Odom 37.5
Prince 31.4

At Sunday, March 11, 2007 6:08:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Your system is not unique. It is called a "linear weights" system, which is a fancy way of saying "add up the good stuff (assists, rebounds, etc.) and subtract the bad stuff (turnovers in your system; some systems also use fouls committed and missed shots)." The problem with such systems in general is how much value to assign to each category. It is very easier to tinker with such a system until one comes up with the result that one desires. I am NOT saying that this is what you did or that you did it on purpose. I am just saying that "stat heads" do not have a very high opinion of linear weights systems as measures.

Obviously, you have a very high opinion of Melo; your account of his career and how it compares to MJ and others, though, contains the very bias of which you accuse others.

Yes, the Nuggets improved from 17 to 43 wins after adding Melo. They also added Andre Miller and Marcus Camby played 72 games instead of 29. Melo hardly accounted for a 26 game improvement by himself. Some people would argue that point guard and center are the two most important positions, so Miller and Camby had a lot to do with the team's improvement.

Yeah, the Bulls were 30-52 in MJ's second season--you left out the slight detail that he missed 64 games due to a broken foot and that the team limited his minutes when he came back near the end of the season. Think that might have had something to do with the team's record? MJ did manage to set a single game playoff scoring record with 63 points against the eventual champion Boston Celtics that year. Is there a comparable achievement on Melo's postseason resume?

By the way, although the internet was not around (or at least in public use) in MJ's early years, plenty of writers did criticize MJ for scoring too much and they did say that he could not lead a team to a title playing the way that he did. On the other hand, polls of NBA players indicated that he was the most feared player for both taking the last shot and guarding someone who is taking the last shot. MJ had some flaws early on but he was a much more dominant performer on both ends of the court than Melo is. Detroit had the "Jordan Rules." Is anyone devising "Melo Rules"? Denver is never in the playoffs long enough for an opponent to have to worry about such things.

First you say that Melo improved the team by 26 games but then you say that the Nuggets' status has not changed much. Which is it? Magic Johnson came to a talented team and turned them into champions. Larry Bird came to a bad team and turned them into contenders and then champions (the Celtics also added McHale and Parish eventually).

Whether or not Denver is a "basketball" town is irrelevant. If Melo were an elite player and he transformed Denver into a contending team than I'm sure that the city would be juiced about him and the team.

I don't think that anyone is biased against Melo because of his age. Amare came straight out of high school and is considered a top player.

I have not looked into the backgrounds of each of the All-Star and All-NBA players but I am willing to bet that several of them came from backgrounds just as impoverished as Melo's. James came from a single parent home, for one. The difference between Melo and some other players is that he does not seem to have completely left those days behind him--i.e., the "stop snitching" fiasco and the "punch and run" at MSG are just two examples of his questionable judgement.

Despite receiving a lot of criticism, Iverson has won an MVP and made numerous All-NBA teams, so it is not logical to suggest that Melo's background is holding him back in this regard. Clearly, it has not hurt Iverson.

The reason that Denver has not been great despite having Iverson and Melo is that the team is poor defensively. I predicted as much when "Nuggets Noise" asked me what I thought of the deal right after it happened. I thought that just based on sheer talent that the team might be able to finally get out of the first round--if presented with a favorable matchup--but that defensive deficiencies would preclude it from going any further. Clearly, the defense has been even worse than I anticipated.

At Sunday, March 11, 2007 3:12:00 PM, Blogger The Quest for the Ring said...

What I did was not my ideal system, but it was a nice quick and easy summary, and I proved my basic point that no matter how you jigger the numbers, Melo comes out equal to or ahead of Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, LeBron James, Steve Nash, and so forth. But if you took a poll asking who is the best player among these and similar players, Melo would probably finish last or very close to last.

The simple system I presented was modified linear weights, because it uses the vastly superior per 48 minutes stats, instead of the per game stats. Using the per minute stats is the biggest improvement one can make from the most basic per game stats and, as I alluded to, I could get fancy and start using situational variables and regressions and that kind of stuff, and Melo would fall a few notches, but he would still be no lower than 15th, which would qualify him to be an elite player in my book, especially considering his age.

Then I went on to begin to explain why this is so.

Marcus Camby was already on the Nuggets the year before Melo arrived, when they were 17-65. He was an offensively challenged center who had just 7.6 points a game. Today he is even better defensively then he was that year, and is now one of the very best defenders in the League, but he is driving Nuggets fans up the wall with his foolish jump shooting. Although he is a half way decent 11.1 ppg, his shooting percentage is a mere .473, whereas Erick Dampier is at .654, Yao Ming is at .515 with 25 ppg, and Andrew Bynum is at .553. Summary: Camby has largely been a lone wolf (a defensive star on a bad team ) at least from the 17-65 2002-2003 season right on up to the present, but he has never been a major offensive contributor.

True, Camby played 29 games in 2002-2003. But Nene was on board in 2002-2003 and was then and remains today better offensively than Camby. He played 80 games in 2002-2003, and had 10.5 ppg on .519 shooting.

In fact, the 2002-2003 pre Melo Nuggets were so bad, that they did not have ANY players averaging more than 18.4 ppg (Juwan Howard}. And they had only 2 players shooting better than .450: Nene and Ryan Brown. Melo coming on board this wretched team was like a man in the desert dying of thirst reaching an oasis. The Nuggets needed every point they could get just to fill the stands, so Melo was given the green light to produce every score he reasonably could, so he did. The rest, as they say, is history...

"Coming off a wretched 17-65 season the only place for the Nuggets to go was up, one player who was key to their success was Rookie Carmello Anthony who showed veteran poise right away as the Nuggets got off to a solid start posting a 10-6 record through November which included a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers as Anthony battled fellow super rookie LeBron James. The Nuggets continued to play well in December as they surpassed their previous season's win total and found themselves in the thick of the playoff picture. The Nuggets would continue to be in the playoff race all season despite posting losing records in February and March as Anthony hit the rookie wall. However by finishing the season with 5 wins in their last 7 games the Nuggets were able to grab the lost playoff spot in the West with a 43-39 record. Despite 21 points and 6 rebounds per game Carmello Anthony would finish second to LeBron James in Rookie of the Year voting. However Anthony got the Nuggets into the postseason, where they faced the Minnesota Timberwolves. Despite strong games from Carmello the Nuggets dropped the first 2 games on the road. Hosting their first playoff game in 9 years the Nuggets bounced back to win Game 3 101-86. With a chance to even the series in Game 4.the Nuggets had a potential game tying by Voshon Lenard miss at the buzzer in a heartbreaking 84-82 loss, as they went on to fall to the Wolves in 5 games."

[From: http://www.sportsecyclopedia.com/nba/denver/nuggets.html]

Voshon Lenard's accuracy was a poor .422 that year, and he is typical of the poor shooting Nuggets who have come and gone over the past decade.

Andre Miller arrived that year, along with Melo, and he averaged 14.8 ppg on .457 shooting, whereas Melo averaged 21 ppg on .426 shooting. But Melo made 69/214 3-pointers in this, his rookie year, whereas Miller has always been a non-factor from beyond the arc, and he made only 12/65 that year. So if you want to give Miller some of the credit, fine. But clearly, Melo deserves a large amount of credit for the turnaround, as a rookie no less, and the turnaround was as huge as it gets in the modern NBA: from wretched to kind of good.

Is Melo taking more time than LeBron did to solidify his status as an elite player? Yes, obviously, but just because everyone wants instant superstars just like they want an instant meal from the microwave, it doesn't mean that every player destined to be a major star is going to be an instant superstar. I think it's smart for someone to take some time to build up performance, rather than try to achieve everything in 3 years. Everyone knows that a basketball career is supposed to last at least a 10 years, a dozen years in Melo's case.

The Bulls were 27-55 the year before Michael Jordan arrived, and were 38-46 the year he arrived, so he did NOT instantly lead his team to the promised land. The next season was the 30-52 season, where Jordan played just 18 games. During the next season, the 1986-87 season, Jordan played 82 games, had 37.2 ppg, but failed to get his team a winning record, as the Bulls finished 40-42 and were bounced in the first round of the the playoffs. That year Jordan was much more of a ball hog than Melo will ever be. So in three seasons, Jordan failed to raise up his teammates and get them far into the playoffs, despite being an elite player, or was it that Jordan was not an elite player at that time, because he was too young?

Meanwhile, Melo has made his wretched team a winner in all of his first three years. For every instant Melo has played for the Nuggets, unlike with Jordan on the Bulls, his team has been at least a slightly above average team, his team has been playoff bound, and his team has been destined to finish with more wins than losses, despite having many of the worst shooting starters in the Conference. It is actually amazing that the Nuggets have done as well as they have in the regular season during the last 3 seasons prior to this one.

In Jordan's 4th year, the Bull's player acquisitions worked alot better than the moves the Denver front office has made. (But I agree with the Iverson trade, just so everyone knows; the problem is that it is not enough.) The Bulls picked up Olden Polynice and Horace Grant in the draft, and they picked up Scottie Pippen, and we all know how that Pippen-Jordan combination was going to work out. They also had, in Jordan's 4th year, a far better coach than the Nuggets have now: they had Doug Collins, versus George Karl for the Nuggets, whose rotations and communications skills are so bad these days that many more fans in Denver are calling for Karl to be fired than are calling for Melo to change anything at his end.

So in 1987-88, Jordan's 4th year, the Bulls finished 50-32 and went on to reach the semifinals. The next two years after that, they reached the finals, and then they won the Championship 3 straight years in the early 90's, and three more straight times in the mid to late 90's. But it was not until Jordan's 4th year, the 1987-1988 season, with the assistance of a great draft and the acquisition of Scottie Pippen, that the Bulls became a winner.

Similarly, the Nuggets can not make the next step until they have a non-injured, typical build, scoring, defensively skilled PF or C, preferably both. And they need a G-F who can hit 3's and play defense. It is that simple; neither Melo, Michael Jordan, nor anyone else can "lead his team by example" and win a Championship without truly skilled and great teammates. This idea that the most great players can take any team they are on and lead them to the promised land is nothing more than an urban legend.

I think you misunderstood the Denver not being a basketball town point. The point was not whether the fans are juiced about Melo, but whether the view of fans around the country is affected by what city a player plays in, and it clearly is. You yourself earlier in this discussion claimed that Boozer and Gasol were rated too high. But their actual production on the court qualifies them for the rankings you saw.

Well, guess which cities they play in? Salt Lake City, Utah, and Memphis Tennessee. Neither of these two cities have ever won a Championship, with the Jazz being just fodder for the Bulls juggernaut when they reached the finals with Malone and Stockton. Memphis is generally last in attendance, and although Utah has decent attendance, everyone knows that, with only one team in the four major sports Leagues (football, baseball, hockey, and basketball), Salt Lake City can not be considered a major sports town. Both Memphis and Salt Lake City are among the very smallest markets in the League. Although Denver is a bigger market than Memphis or Salt Lake City, it is still tiny compared with Miami, Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and so forth.
It is obvious that players who play for huge markets are going to be more popular than players who play in much smaller markets, so fewer will consider players such as Gasol, Boozer, and Melo to be elite players than will consider Wade, Bryant, and Nowitzki to be elite. Even after he won it all, there are still mumblings about how Duncan is not a true superstar, which is not surprising since he plays in small market San Antonio.

LeBron James grew up in Akron, Ohio, which is a notoriously middle class oriented city, with no extremely low income ghetto area like you have in Brooklyn and in Baltimore, where Melo grew up. I will say that many NBA players grew up in neighborhoods better but not overwhelmingly better than Melo's extremely low income and extremely high crime neighborhood. But just to throw out a few examples, Nowitzki is German, Ming is Chinese, and Shaquille O'Neal grew up partly in Germany, because his stepfather was in the army there.

The main thing to keep in mind on this subject is that there are bad neighborhoods and then there are neighborhoods so bad that no one wants to think about them, and even the police are afraid of them. And the part of Baltimore that Melo grew up in is such an unspeakable neighborhood: it has one of the very highest murder, assault, and robbery rates in the world. There is no area that bad in most cities. including Philadelphia, Dallas, and Houston, although there are neighborhoods that bad to be found in Detroit, South Central Los Angeles and in the Liberty City area of Miami. Melo's neighborhood was one of those where gunfire could be heard many nights.

Melo's video appearance was nothing more than a complete misunderstanding. The punch and run was a brilliant compromise between not doing anything at all to stand up for the dangerous New York City mugging of one of his best friends, and the only Nugget who can shoot 3's: J.R. Smith, and staying in the fight for more, which would have gotten him suspended for the entire season, obviously. And as for future attempted assaults on Nuggets, you can verify with David Stern that Melo understands that Stern will suspend the hell out of any Nugget who tries to defend a teammate in a future assault. Melo has assented to this in advance with Stern, upon which Stern was satisfied to the extent that he put Melo on the all-star team after numerous establishment fans such as yourself failed to vote the scoring leader onto the all-star team, for reasons some of which I have discussed. So in the future, Melo might "run away like a girl," as everyone likes to say from any assault on a teammate, in accordance with Stern's instructions. I'm still waiting to see what Kobe Bryant will do if Smush Parker is neck tackled to the hardwood and a fight erupts, or what LeBron James will do if Larry Hughes is neck takled and a fight breaks out.

Most fans are biased against most young players with respect to whether or not they are considered elite. This is very normal and happens not only in every sport, but in life in general. For example, alot of people think Barrack Obama has no business running for President, because he has not served enough years in the Senate to be fully qualified to do so. To deal with the well known bias against younger players, most sports have rookie honors such as rookie of the year, or maybe an all-rookie team.

Moreover, Melo is only 22 years old, and most folks over the age of 25 remember the silly things they did when they were young and consider anyone under the age of 25 or so to be immature and someone who could not possibly be elite in anything.

Neither you nor I nor anyone else can compare Iverson to Melo because they are at two completely different points in their career. Although the process was like pulling teeth, Melo was an all-star this year, and had one of the best games offensively of all of the West all-stars in this year's game. As the years go by, Melo will rack up many of the achievements of A.I.. If worse comes to worse, and the Denver front office can do no more to get a PF, a scoring C, and at least one solid 3-point G-F on the team, Melo might be traded in a few years. And if he is traded, the odds are he will end up in a much bigger market, such as Boston, Atlanta or Seattle, and in such a market he will have a much better chance of getting something like an MVP.

It's not just defense holding the Nuggets back. It's offense, too, and this is why they are in a complete meltdown right now. Everyone, including me, focused on Melo and Iverson when we said the Nuggets might get past the first round, but we forgot about the fact that the Nuggets have extremely bad shooters other than A.I., Melo, and J.R. Smith, the guy who was assaulted in New York City in December, and who has been more out than in with his injury, his suspension, and George Karl's poor minute allocations.

This is a discussion I have been waiting for, and I am glad I found your blog. Right now, I have to return to my regular duties, but I will probably return here within 2-3 days or so.

At Sunday, March 11, 2007 11:36:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Melo would finish behind Kobe, T-Mac, LeBron and Nash because his game is not as well rounded as any of those players' games are. Converting your linear weights numbers to per 48 minute stats does not correct the basic limitation of the linear weights approach, which is how much weight to assign to each component. Also, you did not even include all the categories in your system, leaving out scoring and shooting, which are pretty important.

"Elite" to me means MVP candidate, not just All-Star. If you are just asserting that Melo falls somewhere between 15th and 19th in the NBA in value, I probably could go along with that but I would not define that as "elite."

Camby is a lot more than an "offensively challenged center." Camby ranked fifth in blocked shots and 10th in rebounds in 2003-04. His presence was a major factor in Denver's improvement. Offense is not his primary calling card but he is a good finisher and has a reliable top of the key jump shot. His .477 fg % that year was better than every other Nugget that year except for Nene.

Yes, Nene was on board in '03 but surely it's better to have Nene's offense and Camby's defense as opposed to just having Nene's offense.

I don't know where you got that long quote from (the link didn't work) but it sounds like it was written by Melo's publicist. LeBron had more assists, more steals, more blocks, scored almost as many points and had almost as many rebounds. The Cavs had much more roster turnover during the season than Denver but were on pace to make the playoffs before starting point guard Jeff McInnis got hurt. Lenard's overall field goal percentage was low because he shoots so many threes; he is a three point specialist and he made a reasonable .367 from that distance in '04.

Miller's game is foul line and down in the paint. That is why he does not shoot many threes (less than one attempt per game in '04 and some of those came as end of quarter buzzer beaters). Miller was a major upgrade over the mess that Denver had at point guard in '03. He is a good rebounder and defender. Dave Berri, author of Wages of Wins, would actually argue that Miller is better than Iverson. I don't agree but Denver's record after the Miller-Iverson deal sure is less than inspiring.

There are some contradictions in what you write, because on the one hand you say that Melo is an "elite" player but then you concede that Melo is taking more time to become an "elite" player than LeBron is.

Granted, MJ did not immediately turn the Bulls around but they did improve and his numbers were off the charts compared to Melo's. MJ averaged 28.2 ppg as a rookie while shooting .515 from the field, averaged more rebounds than Melo despite playing shooting guard, had more than twice as many assists and ranked fourth in the league in steals. MJ's rookie performance is one of the best of all-time.

Denver's regular season record with Melo is better than the Bulls' record with MJ during the first three years but the ultimate result has been the same: three first round losses. MJ's Bulls went 1-9 in those series, while Melo's Nuggets went 3-12. Being a "winner," though, is ultimately decided by championships and Melo is nowhere close to leading a team to an NBA title. MJ's playoff averages in all categories during his first three years blow away Melo's averages. Melo has averaged just 18.6 ppg on .362 field goal shooting in the postseason. Those numbers are hardly "elite." They are not even All-Star level--and his defense has been terrible as well.

I don't find Denver's record to be "amazing." The Nuggets have had a lot of talent on their roster the past couple seasons. If you look at preseason predictions, the "experts" actually expected the Nuggets to do even better than they have. My Lindy's previews about Denver were more circumspect because I was not convinced that the talent would work well together (or stay healthy). Still, nothing that Denver has done during Melo's time there strikes me as "amazing"--other than his wretched field goal shooting during the postseason. How can a player who has that much talent--and whose best skill is scoring--shoot so poorly when the games matter the most?

I have my reservations about Karl as a coach, too, but he has coached a lot longer than Collins did and Karl did take a team to the NBA Finals. The team played much better after he arrived than before.

I don't think that anyone is faulting Melo for not leading Denver to a title. They are faulting him for poor defense, poor shot selection, a reluctance to pass the ball and his poor individual postseason numbers.

You have Boozer as the seventh best player in the league. Sorry, I don't buy it and my reluctance has nothing to do with him playing in Utah. Off the top of my head and in no particular order, Dirk, Kobe, Nash, LeBron, Wade, Duncan, T-Mac, Amare, Yao are definitely better than Boozer. A healthy Shaq is better than Boozer also.

You have Gasol 13th. I don't think so. He's been an All-Star once. Memphis was shopping him before the trade deadline because they think he is soft. He would not crack my top 20.

My evaluation of Melo, Boozer and Gasol has nothing to do with which cities they play in. All three are All-Stars or All-Star caliber; none are top ten, elite, MVP level players, although Boozer may get some low level MVP consideration this year because the Jazz have such a good record.

Name one person who has "mumbled" that Duncan "is not a superstar." He's won two MVPs and three Finals MVPs and makes both the All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams every year. I have stated that I consider him the greatest power forward ever. No one is slighting him based on him playing for San Antonio (maybe for endorsements, but not for MVPs and honors based on merit).

If you think that Akron is "middle -class" and/or LeBron grew up middle-class then you have a lot of research to do. Frankly, I don't see the relevance of how the players grew up when we are talking about their level of play but you are 100% completely wrong about LeBron. What does being Chinese, German or growing up on an army base in Germany have to do with anything? Yao grew up in a Communist country and had to sign away a portion of his earnings to the government. You think it's easier to become an NBA player growing up in China than in the United States? He is a trail blazer.

Read about Bruce Bowen's background. Read about Gilbert Arenas, who was living in a car with his father for a period of time. Plenty of NBA players had living situations that were as bad or worse than Melo's--and why exactly should that be relevant anyway? NBA players are paid based on how they can perform now, not how bad they had it 10 or 15 years ago.

Melo's video appearance was an appalling example of bad judgement, which mirrors the bad judgement that he displays on the court. I laughed out loud when you called the "punch and run" a "brilliant compromise." One, it was a punk move: you don't punch someone who is being restrained and run away under any circumstances. Two, this was another example of horrible judgement. The situation was being defused. Melo was not "standing up" for anything; he was trying to act tough. Were you privy to Melo's conversation with Stern, because you sure state with assurance what was said during their meeting. We've already seen what LeBron would do: last year, Rasheed conked Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the head so hard that blood gushed out. LeBron did nothing, because he is smart enough to understand that his team needs him on the floor playing, not acting like some wanna be tough guy.

LeBron is younger than Melo, as is Amare. Bosh is a young player, as is Dwight Howard. All are receiving better press than Melo because they are playing better and because they have not displayed the poor judgement, on court and off, that Melo has.

Denver is one of the top offensive teams in the NBA and has a below .500 record. If you think that defense is not holding this team back then you are simply not paying attention.

The bottom line of all this is that Melo is an All-Star level player on a mediocre team.

At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 8:56:00 AM, Blogger The Quest for the Ring said...

(I corrected a few typos and deleted the other copy.)

As I said, no matter how you jigger the statistics (no matter what weights you put on the statistics, within reason) Melo is equal to or ahead of Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, LeBron James, Steve Nash, and so forth. Weightings that are biased in favor of rebounding and assists over scoring itself, and there are many of these around, will have Melo as low as the 40th most valuable player in the League, so the defensive bias can get pretty ridiculous. My simple but compelling rankings had Melo 19th if you divide points scored by 2 or 8th if you count points with no adjustment.

If forced to say, I'll say Melo is the 13th best player in the NBA as I write this, with the likelihood in the many years left in his career that he will reach 6th best and the potential that he will reach 4th. I will concede that he has no potential of ever reaching 1st, 2nd, or 3rd right now because he has too many turnovers, has seen his 3-point shot actually get worse, and because he does not play good defense in every quarter yet. On the other hand, his rebounding, passing, and assists are much closer to the LeBron James level this year than last, and unless there is some unexpected development, Melo and LeBron will be extremely close on rebounding and assisting next year or the one after that at the latest. Melo takes a longer view of everything than LeBron does.

Scoring was included, but shooting percentage was not. If you include shooting percentage, Melo goes up, not down, because his accuracy is a strong .473, despite his love of shooting the midrange jumper.

In any event, as I said before, I consider the elite level of any sport to encompass at least the top 5%, which would be at least the top 21 players for the NBA. I'm not a Bush Republican who believes that only the top 1% or 2% matter and that everyone else has moral flaws.

It's interesting that neither LeBron James nor Kobe Bryant agree with your view of the supposed limitations and moral turpitude of Melo. Bryant said recently that Melo represents the best of the next generation of NBA stars, and LeBron was adamant that Melo should have easily been voted into the all star game.

Under your definition of elite, where the player has to be a possible MVP, had Michael Jordan played for the Vancouver Grizzlies, he never would have qualified as elite, because the Grizzlies would still have failed to have a substantial winning record, and I don't think there have been many MVPs who played for losing or mediocre teams. Jordan's assists and scoring would have been less, but I would still have ranked Jordan as elite, but you would not have, partly because of the fewer number of players you allow into the category, had Jordan played for the Grizzlies.

I never said that Camby was or is just an "offensively challenged center" Here is what I said: "He was an offensively challenged center who had just 7.6 points a game. Today he is even better defensively then he was that year, and is now one of the very best defenders in the League, but he is driving Nuggets fans up the wall with his foolish jump shooting." I said Camby is one of the best defenders in the League now, even better than he was in the year before Melo arrived. Although I didn't explicitly state it, the easy and correct deduction from my Camby description is that if he is one the best defenders in the League now, he had to have been at least a good defender in the year before Melo arrived. I love Camby's defense, but he didn't in the pre-Melo year and still does not get the number of easy dunks, layups and tip-ins that many other centers get, particularly centers who play for the top teams of the Western Conference, which it is my duty as a Nuggets analyst to focus on.

Many fans who watch the Nuggets closely have gone apoplectic about Camby's insistence of developing his jump shot and acting on occasion as if he is a point guard, but I say that if a man is that solid on defense, he has the right within reason to try to develop the style of offensive play he is most comfortable with. In summary, overall I am a Camby supporter, but his ppg in the pre-Melo era was miserable, and he has never been a major offensive contributor for the Nuggets, unlike most of the other centers of the top teams of the West.

You said "Being a 'winner,' though, is ultimately decided by championships and Melo is nowhere close to leading a team to an NBA title." But as a reminder, I said that no single player has ever been responsible alone for winning a Championship for his team. Let me quote myself because I think if you ranked my points, this is one of my very most important points in this discussion: "It is that simple; neither Melo, Michael Jordan, nor anyone else can 'lead his team by example and win a Championship without truly skilled and great teammates. This idea that the most great players can take any team they are on and lead them to the promised land is nothing more than an urban legend."

As a little example, it was Linas Kleiza finally showing alot of skill in shooting the basketball that got the win for the Nuggets on March 11 in Sacramento, not Melo or anyone else "leading the Nuggets to victory by example." Had Kleiza missed most of those shots, the Nuggets would have lost, and he did not make those particular shots out of respect for Melo's great floor leadership or some other abstract thing. He made them because he has been working like hell in practice on his 3-point shot, and he finally had the skill, the poise, and the determination to make them rather than miss them. Now if Kleiza were to continue to play close to as well as he played against the Kings, and the Nuggets were to reach the Western Conference final, folks such as you would end up saying "Wow, Melo really turned it around and led his team to the Conference final". But the reality would be alot more subtle; it would be that it was due to Kleiza and his coaches busting their butts in practice to get Kleiza physically and mentally equipped to hit 3-pointers in high pressure situations. It never ceases to amaze me when a sports analyst ascribes coaching skills (and coaching work) to a player, especially a young player like Melo. Melo can and does set a tone and certain standards of practice and effort, but beyond these atmospherics, players like Kleiza have got to produce individually.

If you think that the Vancouver Grizzlies would have won an NBA Championship (and stayed in Vancouver, no doubt) had Michael Jordan played all his years with them, then I will be truly amazed.

Sorry, the link didn't work because of the bracket at the end. (Even though the bracket is not visible, it still can show up on the paste for some strange reason; the end of the reference should just be nuggets, with nothing after the "s".)

I never even hinted that I was comparing Melo to Michael Jordan. I brought Michael Jordan into my discussion to explain how even one of the all-time best players in history needed and got substantial skilled help in order to win Championships. Had Chicago not made the key 1987-1992 improvements to their team that they made, Jordan alone would NEVER by himself have "led the Bulls to a Championship". And that's why the Nuggets practically bet the ranch on Iverson.

If you don't think Denver's win-loss record transformation in one year from pre-Melo to Melo is amazing, ask around to see how many basketball analysts think that any of the following teams will turn things around in one year, by next year finishing with more wins and losses, and making the playoffs:


Maybe one of these teams will do a one-year turnaround next year, but they are going to have to have an instant elite player from the draft to do it, just as the Nuggets had.

Denver in the pre-Melo year was as bad or worse than any of these four teams this year. The Nuggets that year were 28th out of 29 in 3-point shots, barely ahead of the Jazz. They were 28th out of 29 in field goals, beating Miami by 1 field goal. In total points they were dead last, finishing 115 points behind Miami. The Nuggets and the Heat were way behind every other team in the League offensively that year. There were 10 teams that scored more than 1,000 point more than the hapless Nuggets. Cleveland had 594 points more than Denver had. The Denver defense was better, which allowed the Nuggets to win their 17 games. Now that I have looked into this in even more detail, I am even more amazed than I already was regarding the Nugget's one year turnaround.

As for Denver now, who other than Melo, A.I., and Nene is a reliable scorer, either in terms of points per 48 minutes or in terms of accuracy? J.R. Smith was hitting some threes, but his season has been all but wiped out by the suspension, the George "Scrooge" Karl benchings, and his knee injury. Which Nuggets, other than these four, is not a below average scorer? I would be interested to find out. Most of them, in fact, are way below NBA scoring and accuracy norms, though Kleiza may have raised himself up to below normal at this point.

What talent the Nuggets have has been minimized by the fact that they lead the NBA in turnovers. Turnovers are almost as deadly to winning chances in basketball as they are in football, and the Nuggets have blown more leads than anyone, party because of too many turnovers.

No, unfortunately, unless there is a miracle, the Nuggets are going to need Kenyon Martin back at full strength at PF or an equivalent substitute, and, also, rock bottom minimum, one G-F who can shoot 3's and play defense. Najera absolutely must go. Everyone says "He doesn't score, but he plays great defense". Well if both Camby and Najera play such fantastic defense, then why are the Nuggets just about last in defense? I'll answer my own question: because Najera is overrated on defense and, since in most outings he has the offensive output of a mouse, what does it matter exactly how good Najera is on defense anyway? You can't afford players who end up with 2 or 3 points even though they started.

No, my friend, I'm afraid if you strip away A.I., Melo, Camby, Nene, and J.R. Smith, the Nuggets are literally pathetic. And I am mad I had to admit that, but it's the truth, and I have to handle the truth.

I didn't say that Melo is taking more time to become an elite player; I said that Melo is taking more time to "solidify his status as an elite player". In other words, it is taking him more time to get a large enough majority to agree that he is an elite player than it really should take, and more time than it is taking comparable players.

By leaving 2-3 rebounds to Camby or Nene that he could get himself, and by leaving a couple of assists per game to Miller and now A.I. that he could get for himself, he is delegating too much for those basketball analysts such as yourself who want an elite player to go full out maximum at all times. But I agree with Melo's philosophy and approach: allow those who rebound the best to rebound, allow those who pass and react to the defense the best to pass and react to the defense, and so forth. He can score every way except from long range reliably, so he logically chooses this specialization for himself.

Voshon Lenard's 2-point shot accuracy in the year he made the shot to keep the Nuggets alive was only .447.

You are right about Melo's bad shooting in two of the three playoff series, and only mediocre shooting in the other one. It is a real mystery. Maybe he lost his confidence because he realized that, unlike with the Syracuse Orangeman, there was no way in hell the Nuggets were going to reach the final four? Good point there, and, if the Nuggets make the playoffs this year, I expect better.

I like Collins as a coach way over Karl; he's more intelligent and has better communication skills. Perhaps most importantly, he never interferes with a player's right to be the final decision maker on what aspects of his game to emphasize on the court. George Karl has dictator tendencies which seem to grow like a cancer during parts of a season, leading to such debacles as the benching of Kenyon Martin during last years playoff series against the Clippers.

Melo's defense is gradually improving. I think his shot selection is ok. I agree with his not passing the ball too much to any Nugget who is well below the average scoring performance for his position; I think it's smart. You get no argument on the poor playoff shooting; like his shrinking 3-point shot, it stands as a mystery and a definite negative right now.

I like Boozer and agree with how the ranking came out; where would the 43-19 Jazz be without him? After Malone and Stockton were done, almost everyone thought Utah would be wretched, but Sloan, Boozer, Okur, and Deron Williams have knocked out any hopes the Nuggets had to repeat as division winners very early in the season indeed. They are every bit as amazing as the Nuggets are; it is the Wolves who were supposed to be ruling the Northwest division these years. And Boozer without a doubt exceeds Melo's and most other top player abilities to explode in any given game, and he can do so as a scorer, a rebounder, and a defender all at once. If Boozer is way down the list, then how are the Jazz 43-19 in the tough Western Conference?

I think Memphis was shopping Gasol because they thought they could rake Chicago over the coals and have a chance for a miracle turnarund next year if they get the 1st or 2nd selection in the draft and it works out for them. Chi-town decided they couldn't quite afford the price. That episode was an indicator of how valuable Gasol is, not how low rent he his.

With regard to Duncan, the cable and network sportscasters were all over him when he choked a little on some free throws and on shooting in a few games during the various seasons the Spurs did not win it all in the last decade. They had him under a huge microscope. (The Spurs have won it all three times with Duncan during his 9 completed seasons.)

And when Duncan criticized himself, it only opened the door for more gratuitous criticism, with sportscasters saying things like "this man wilts under extreme pressure and will not be able to get his team to the winner's circle" and similar goofy stuff. The sportscasters, biased in favor of the big markets, took every opening they got to nitpick about Duncan's minor problems, knowing that his fan base was tiny compared to that of his opponents, and knowing that Duncan was being too much a perfectionist in public.

Akron Ohio
% of Families Below the Poverty Line: 14.0 %
% of Individuals Below the Poverty Line: 17.5 %
Violent Crime per 100,000 inhabitants: 266.4

(LeBron's zip code had even lower poverty, then the city as a whole, so I used the city data to be on the safe side. I wouldn't want to be wrong, you know.

Baltimore, Maryland-Melo's Zip Code
% of Families Below the Poverty Line: 37.6 %
% of Individuals Below the Poverty Line: 41.4 %
Violent Crime per 100,000 inhabitants: 837.1

Summary: Melo's city was more than 3 times as violent as LeBron's city, and there were far more middle class people relative to poor people in LeBron's neighborhood than in Melo's neighborhood. The percentage of poor families was 2 1/2 times greater in Melo's neighborhood than in LeBron's neighborhood.

You said: "What does being Chinese, German or growing up on an army base in Germany have to do with anything?"

Answer: Anyone growing up in these places had a lower poverty, a higher income, and a much lower crime environment than Melo had.

China is huge and complicated, but I do know that it is easier to become almost anything you want to be in Europe than it is in the United States. More important for this discussion, it is far easier to become a pro basketball player from a middle income upbringing than it is from a dirt poor, high crime neighborhood upbringing.

You asked: "You think it's easier to become an NBA player growing up in China than in the United States?"

Answer: Yes, it was easier for Yao Ming then it was for Melo.

And a reminder on why it is relevant: Melo's unspeakably bad neighborhood is one of the reasons why there are many others besides yourself who can not accept Melo as a true elite player. Not everyone who does not think Melo is elite may factor in his upbringing, which included no father, by the way. And those who do factor it in may not be conscious of what they are doing. But the bias is there with no doubt. Furthermore, there is to this day a large minority of basketball observers who refuse to consider Allen Iverson, whose neighborhood in Virginia was closer to Melo's than to LeBron's, as an elite player who made true history on the Sixers. And it's funny you mentioned Gilbert Arenas; he's another player I believe is underrated, so it's no surprise to me that he grew up dirt poor.

Although there was all kinds of criticism of Melo regarding the altercation with the Knicks to be heard where I am at usually, everyone agreed that Marty Collins was not at all being restrained when he was punched by Melo. Not in the least. And had Melo not run away at that point, I would not even be following basketball this season, because Melo would have been suspended for the entire season, or almost all of it, anyway.

I calculated that even the huge 15 game suspension ended up costing the Nuggets a relatively small 3 game net loss, and I, for one, am still glad Melo got the punch in on the guy who neck tackled J.R. Smith to the hardwood, thus risking J.R. getting a serious head or spinal cord injury. Without J.R. Smith, the Nuggets have no wild card element that gives them a chance against the top teams in the West. So I'll let you have another laugh and repeat that Melo made a brilliant compromise after Marty Collins and Nate Robinson brought the Bronx or Brooklyn gang alley into the living rooms of basketball fans around the nation.

Melo understood the mentality of Collins and Robinson all too well, given his own back alley upbringing, so he responded in a way that most people do not understand. I did and do understand it, even though I did not grow up in a bad neighborhood.

You said: "Rasheed conked Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the head so hard that blood gushed out". I'm not familiar with the details, but I have a hunch that it was more of an accident than an aggravated flagrant foul.

Melo's judgment is top notch, and I know the real reasons why Melo has little recognition so far and I have stated and proved some of them right here.

You said: "Denver is one of the top offensive teams in the NBA and has a below .500 record. If you think that defense is not holding this team back then you are simply not paying attention."

I said that there is not much offense to be found once you go beyond A.I., Melo, Nene, and J.R.. And I have agreed over and over that the Nuggets are lazy on defense, and that there are some Nuggets who don't have defensive skills, such as Kleiza, Johnson, and Blake. Najera is an overrated defender, and Melo is a little below average some games and average other games on defense.

Our Melo rankings are only about 7-10 players apart, but our reasons and our conclusions are very different, which makes for an interesting discussion.

At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 9:13:00 PM, Blogger The Quest for the Ring said...

(I corrected a couple of typos and deleted the copy.)

"I don't agree that no matter how you juggle the statistics that Melo is equal to or ahead of Kobe, T-Mac, etc. For one thing, the NBA calculates an efficiency stat that ranks Garnett number one, Wade two, Dirk three, Kobe four, LeBron seven, Nash 11 and Melo 16. T-Mac somehow comes out at 30. I think that stat is actually pretty whack, but it juggles the numbers in a way that Kobe, LeBron and Nash are all ahead of Melo. The point is that the formula you are using obviously makes a difference--and you really have to juggle to find a way to make Melo any higher than the 15-20 range."

I already explained this: "As I said, no matter how you jigger the statistics (no matter what weights you put on the statistics, within reason) Melo is equal to or ahead of Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, LeBron James, Steve Nash, and so forth. Weightings that are biased in favor of rebounding and assists over scoring itself, and there are many of these around, will have Melo as low as the 40th most valuable player in the League, so the defensive bias can get pretty ridiculous. My simple but compelling rankings had Melo 19th if you divide points scored by 2 or 8th if you count points with no adjustment."

The NBA efficiency rating is typical of the many ratings that give more weight to rebounding, assisting, and low opponent scoring while a given player is on the court.

"Bush and the Republicans? What does that have to do with anything? "Elite" and "great" are overused words regarding basketball players. There are very few truly elite or great players. To me, if you are not a legit MVP candidate then you are not "elite" or "great." There are 24 All-Stars, plus injury replacements, and most of them are simply very good players. Melo is one of that group."

We'll have to agree to disagree on this one. You can go on with your half dozen elite players and I will go on with my 20. My basketball experience will be the richer. But I'm glad you at least think that Melo is "very good".

Definition of "elite": representing the most choice or select; best: an elite group of authors.

( From Dictionary.com )

There is not even a hint of a specific numerical dimension to the word "elite" in the definition, so I can not shoot down your use of the word and you can not shoot down mine.

"It would be pretty strange if LeBron, who is good friends with Melo, bashed him in the press. Likewise, why would Kobe take a shot at him? That has nothing to do with what we are talking about, which is whether or not Melo is an "elite" player. We seem to agree on his ranking (15-20 or so) but disagree on what "elite" means in this context."

The point stands and is straightforward: Kobe Bryant and LeBron James think Melo is an elite player. You won't find many players who restrict the use of the term elite to just 6 players or so; why would they think there are fewer elite players than there are all-stars? Players do not limit their highest praises to just the half dozen MVP candidates who are playing for the best teams.

"Your MJ to the Grizzlies example makes a lot of assumptions. MJ went to a bad team, took them to the first round of the playoffs several years in a row and had record setting playoff performances. When the team acquired some better personnel, he won six titles. Care to explain how an "elite" player shoots 36% from the field and averages 18 ppg in the playoffs? Don't tell me that he "lost confidence." Did MJ ever lose confidence? Great players don't "lose confidence." That is just a cop out. Admit that Melo has played horribly in the playoffs. That is a big reason that his team did poorly."

I was hoping I would get a better response on the M.J. on Vancouver hypothetical, and I am sorry that you brushed it off. Since I didn't get a rejoinder, I assume that point connected, that is, had Jordan played for the Grizzlies and they never won a Championship, you and a substantial number of others would never have considered him to be elite, whereas I still would have. And you know, behind most hypotheticals, there are ongoing realities. Here are other players, right in the here and now, who are elite in my view but who are probably not elite in your view, all of them playing for mediocre or bad teams and many playing for small markets or for Toronto:

O'Neill, Jermaine
Howard, Dwight
Arenas (barely)
Kidd (barely and not for sure)
Camby (barely and not for sure)

As for Melo in the playoffs, I already conceded that he played very poorly (not horribly, though) in 2 of the 3 playoff series, and I also conceded that I don't know what the reason is and I also stated that I expect better this year, assuming the Nuggets get a playoff series to play in. I did not say that Melo lost confidence in himself. What I did say was: "Maybe he lost his confidence because he realized that, unlike with the Syracuse Orangeman, there was no way in hell the Nuggets were going to reach the final four?" What that means is that Melo, if and when he realized the Nuggets had little or no chance to defeat the opposing team, lost confidence in the situation and his shooting suffered as a result because of a drop in concentration or even effort. More specifically, he made too many forced shots with the Nuggets way behind on the scoreboard. I did not mean that Melo lost confidence in himself, though the way I phrased it allows for that alternative interpretation.

"You don't have to requote yourself; I read what you wrote. You called Camby "offensively challenged," yet he had the second best shooting percentage on the team--and his primary role is defense/rebounding, so what does it matter whether or not he is "offensively challenged"?"

As I already explained, the Nuggets were pathetic on accuracy that year, so being the second best is nothing on such a team, and Camby is a center so his accuracy, ideally, should be at or extremely close to .500 if you want to keep up with Ming, Dampier, Stoudemire, Bynum, and so forth. No team can afford any of their starting players to be offensively challenged. As for defensively challenged, you can frequetnly afford 1 starter who is, and sometimes two in unusual circumstances.

"Kleiza had an interesting quote at halftime of the Sac game. He mentioned that the ball is finally being passed around, giving him an opportunity to score. I wonder who that remark referred to?"

Yes, I wonder who that remark referred to also, most likely to no one in particular. The idea that Nuggets other than Camby, A.I., Melo, Nene, and J.R. Smith have been standing around, never getting the opportunity to shoot is ridiculous. They have been getting their opportunities. They have been afraid to shoot sometimes due to George "Scrooge" Karl, who will bench anyone after a bad shooting game. Both A.I. and Melo are reluctant to give alot of opportunities to a teammate until and unless that teammate shows that he can make his shots rather than miss most of them.

Let's see what happens with Kleiza now. He has to survive Karl's crazy minute allocations, and then he has to avoid returning to 1-6 shooting games. If he gets over those hurdles, he will get his opportunities, I can guarantee you that.

"You brought up MJ, not me. If you don't want to compare MJ's title years to Melo's first few years, then compare their first three seasons to each other. MJ's numbers are far better, plus he was a much better defender. We'll see if Melo can lead a team to a title, let alone six, if the team acquires better personnel. By the way, MJ never played with a former MVP/scoring champion like Iverson (I'm not counting the one year that Gervin spent with the Bulls while MJ was out with the broken foot)."

I never wanted to compare Jordan to Melo, but if forced to, I'll say that there is only a 1/6 chance that Melo will ever reach the historic level Jordan played at. I think you understand the rest of my points regarding the help Jordan needed to get the Championships.

"What do Boston, Atlanta and those other teams have to do with anything? Stick to the issue at hand. Denver's record improved for three reasons: (1) Melo's rookie performance; (2) acquisition of a quality starting point guard (Miller); (3) return to health of starting center Camby. You cannot give Melo all of the credit when Denver improved at arguably the two most important positions, pg and c."

You said Denver's turnaround from 17-65 to 43-39 was not amazing. So then I wanted to explore your view further, by asking you whether, if Boston, Atlanta, or Memphis win 42 or more games next year and make the playoffs, whether you think that would be amazing or not. I think it would be. As much as I like Camby, you can't say that a team that couldn't score at all before Melo was helped to a huge amount by a player who did not get anything near the points or the accuracy that all of the top centers get.

The Nuggets actually got worse defensively from the pre-Melo year to the first Melo year. They went from 8th place, 92.4 ppg to 13th place, 96.1. What that means is that the huge improvement, the turnaround in other words, was overwhelmingly centered around an improvement on the offense. As for Miller, I already said he shares a portion of the credit for the huge turnaround, but Melo gets the lion's share of the credit.

"You are missing the point when you lament Denver's offense. The Nuggets are one of the top offensive teams in the league. They are below .500 because their defense is horrible."

The Nuggets on the surface are one of the top offensive teams in the league, but as soon as you dig a little, you realize they are not truly a top offensive team. They lead the league in turnovers, and the offensive rebounding and shots on goal have become completely unreliable. The work they have to do on defense is reducing the pace of the offense a little. Most importantly, as I said, you can't have players such as Blake, Diawara, Johnson, and Kleiza (excepting the other game) commonly going 1-6 or 2-9 and be truly one of the best offensive teams in the League. They get alot of points, but they get 6 fewer points than the Suns get, and they would need some or all of those 6 ppg, given their defensive problems, if they wanted to be competitive with the West. And the offense is hopelessly imbalanced, with overreliance on the ones who can score, to the point where the opponents find it easy to defend the Nuggets. Obviously, simple double covers work wonders agsinst the Nuggets. I already agreed that the defense is poor, but I disagree that it is the only or even that it is one of the only problems for the Nuggets.

Iverson on defense makes up for his occasional lapses with his anticipation and his steals, so I do not consider him to be a defensive liablility. Melo is having games where his defense is below normal, but almost never grossly below normal, and he is also having games where his defense is perfectly average.

You could not possibly win a Championship with Najera even if he were the best defender in the League, because he simply will not score enough points. For lords sake, Ben Wallace has a higher career scoring output than Najera, 6.6 ppg versus 5.3 ppg. I repeat, how does it even matter how good Najera is on defense if he scores almost nothing?

The Nuggets have only one for sure elite player, Carmelo Anthony. Camby is on the cusp, and Iverson is in the vicinity and is outstanding and I love his play and all that, but he is not quite in my top 5% anymore. Time has started to take it's toll on that historic player.

The point about the Wolves was a broad one. What I was saying is that if you go back 4 years or so, to the time the Nuggets were wretched, which is also the time just after Malone and Stockton retired, the Wolves were supposed to be the team that ruled the newly formed Northwest Division. Since then, the Wolves have done worse than most folks thought, whereas the Jazz and the Nuggets have done much better than most folks thought would be the case.

Memphis was asking for several young role players with potential, and Chi-town wisely decided they should not pay the price. Although the Grizzlies are and have always been desperate, the high price they were asking for Gasol was not wildly out of line, and the Bulls gave serious consideration to the negotiations.

There were numerous newspaper articles and television sportscaster references to Duncan missing alot of free throws and supposedly easy layups in high pressure situations in games in the first half of his 9 years with the Spurs. I don't know any of the names, but Bill Walton was probably one of them.

The poverty percentages were by zip code in Melo's case and for the city of Akron in LeBron's case. The zip codes in central and Northeastern Akron all had lower poverty numbers than the city as a whole, so I used the city poverty numbers to make absolutely sure I am not making a mistake. All of the zip codes in Akron have roughly similar poverty numbers, and that is precisely my point: Akron does not have any extremely poor and extremely violent neighborhoods the way Baltimore does. I have seen with my own eyes the rowhouse, packed in, no jobs available except for drug dealing neighborhood that Melo lived in.

The crime rates were city-wide, because you can't get crime rates by neighborhood unless the police department posts them on the internet. A quick check of the Baltimore police department's site reveals neighborhood data going back only two weeks, which is a sign in itself of how much crime there is in Baltimore. The Akron police department has a chart showing crime by district, and there are no districts showing a large amount of crime over and above the district average. If someone lived in the worst neighborhood in Akron, his crime rate would be somewhat but not hugely higher than the city rate.

On the other hand, we know Melo lived in one the worst neighborhoods in Baltimore, and Baltimore is literally one of the very highest crime cities in the country, so his neighborhood must have a substantially higher crime rate than the city as a whole, because there are some middle income neighborhoods in Baltimore that have much less crime and violence. The Melo to LeBron neighborhood crime rate ratio must be at least 3 to 1. I don't know what LeBron's address was like I do Melo's, but since I checked poverty and now crime data for all of the worst neighborhoods in Akron, I have proved my point.

LeBron's neighborhood was nothing to write home about, but it wasn't the gunfire in the night and drugs for sale on every corner that Melo's neighborhood was.

Again, the larger point is that there are many basketball analysts who assume Melo can not be elite because his judgment and his morals are questionable. And his judgment and morals are questionable because he grew up where a large percentage of people end up in jail after committing various crimes. The punch incident fed right into the fantasies of such analysts. They said: "Ha ha, it's true, he has no judgment, so we are correct in assuming his upbringing makes him defective". All this from one incident that even David Stern came to completely understand, whereupon he totally forgave Melo and put him on the all-star team over the objections of the hardcore Melo haters.

Again, it is more difficult to become a pro basketball player at all if you grow up in a neighborhood like Melo's, compared to a less extreme location. More to the point of this discusssion, it is much more difficult to get recognized as an elite player if you grow up in such a neighborhood.

When did I place China in Europe? The point was that Melo's neighborhood was so bad, that the vast majority of neighborhoods in the developed world would give someone a better upbringing and less bias against being considered elite than Melo had. As for China, it all depends on where in China Ming lived. If he lived in a big city that has been economically transformed in the last 40 years and was prosperous and growing rapidly when Ming was there, such as Shanghai, Beijing, and so forth, then his upbringing was much better than Melo's. If he grew up in a poor peasant town in the middle of nowhere, then I guess he would have been worse off then Melo, since there would have been almost nowhere and almost no one to play basketball with.

I expressly did not assume you buy into the upbringing argument. I said that some who do not consider Melo to be elite do NOT use his upbringing, even unconsiously, as a rationale. If that group includes you, then more power to you.

Collins was being touched on the shoulders by the guy standing behind him, not restrained. Collins was taunting Melo and the Nuggets at the time Melo decided to belt him.

I still want to know more about the Rasheed Wallace / Ilgauskas incident. Was it an accident or not? Was there an aggravated flagrant foul called or not? You have to have an intentional, aggravated flagrant foul to come close to the incident during which Melo punched Collins, and you would need either an injury or risk of a serious injury as well. But if the Wallace thing was mostly an accident, then it does not compare and I will still be waiting for real comparative incidents. I'll probably be waiting a very long time too, which underscores how reckless the neck tackle flagrant foul Collins put on J.R. really was.

"You list Denver's roster as if these names prove that the team is bad on offense. Denver is fourth in scoring and fourth worst in points allowed. Do the math."

To repeat, A.I., Melo, Nene, and J.R. Smith are fantastic on offense, Camby is marginal at best, and Najera, Evans, Diawara, Johnson, Kleiza, and Blake are below or grossly below the average offensive output for their on court positions and their depth chart positions. So I have indeed already done the math, and I, therefore, have not been mystified that the Nuggets have been losing almost all of their games against winning teams, even though their defense is gradually improving, and is now sometimes poor rather than always very poor.

I just finished this at Nuggets tipoff time, good timing if I do say so myself. For now, peace.

At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 11:45:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

The whole issue of the different rating systems probably does not matter that much regarding our discussion of Melo, because we each basically rank him in the same general area--you just call 15-20 "elite," while I do not. My point with the example of the NBA's efficiency rating is that the numbers can be juggled to say almost anything that you want them to say. Numbers are important but they have to be provided with context. Linear weights systems like the one you use are probably the least compelling, all the more so when you selectively leave out categories.

What is the point of using a word like "elite" and then diluting it? It could be said that every NBA player is "elite" because just about anybody who is in the NBA could walk into most gyms in this country and dominate; NBA players are the best 400 or so basketball players in the world. Look at the Indy 500--those are 33 of the best open wheel drivers in the world, but I don't think anyone would call the person who finishes 20th elite. Is there some prize or award for being the 19th best player in the NBA? If you are a top five pick and after three years you are the 19th best player, is that good?

I brushed off your MJ hypothetical because it is not relevant and assumes too many facts that are not in evidence. The reality is that MJ went to a bad team and ultimately won six titles. Before he did that, he took his team to the playoffs and set postseason scoring records. If MJ went to the Grizzlies and was not only the league's best scorer but the league's best perimeter defender then, yes, I would have considered him elite. What does any of this have to do with Melo and his horrible playoff numbers?

Whether or not you "expect" Melo to do better in the playoffs does not make him an elite player now. I can't base my evaluations on your expectations. Anyway, how could he do worse than 18 ppg and 36% shooting? He has the ball in his hands all the time, so unless he gets hurt he's going to score 18 ppg just by being on the court.

T-Mac is an elite player. Kidd is an elite player. The rest of your list, I say no. Boozer and Arenas will probably get MVP votes and might be on other people's "elite" lists. Marion's a maybe. Bosh and Howard are up and coming, could definitely become elite players soon. Okafor's not even an All-Star.

Camby's job is not to shoot as accurately as Yao and the others. He is a shotblocker/rebounder who has a reliable top of the key jump shot.

If Boston and the other teams turn around whether or not I am "amazed" will depend on the circumstances--which players they acquire in the draft, through trades, etc. Going from 18 to 43 wins by adding a lottery pick, a quality starting point guard and a quality starting center is hardly "amazing." Give Miller credit for 8 games at least, Camby another 8 and Melo credit for 9. If you want to go crazy, give Melo credit for 15--that is not "amazing" for a lottery pick; that is expected.

I'd take Iverson over Melo if we are talking purely about skills and not age, contract, etc. Iverson has shown that he can lead a team to the Finals--and that team hardly had a lot of offensive weapons. Although he gambles a lot, his defense is better than Melo's because at least he gets some steals and causes some disruption.

I don't understand why you pin all of Denver's problems on Najera. The guy is a role player who plays his role. All championship teams have guys like that. Denver is not a great team because they do not have an elite player like most of the great teams do. Let's look at the standings: Dallas has Dirk; San Antonio has Duncan; Phx has Nash, with Marion and Amare close to elite if not actually elite; Utah has two All-Stars in Boozer and Okur and a top point guard in Deron Williams; the Lakers have Kobe. Denver has Melo and Iverson but not as many wins as those other teams. Melo is not as good as the best player on any of those teams and, in my opinion, not as good as the second best player on some of those teams.

Who cares what the Wolves were supposed to do four years ago? Denver was "supposed" to win the division this year and has been one of the biggest disappointments in the West, right there with the Clippers. And why have they been a disappointment? Because Melo plays no defense, holds the ball on offense and had to miss 15 games because he wanted to prove how tough he is by punching a guy who was already being restrained.

You let me know when Walton or anyone else with a shred of credibility says anything other than that Duncan is an elite player. He, LeBron and Shaq all have free throw line issues but I have yet to hear anyone who knows what they're talking about not list them among the league's best players.

The whole census/sociology diatribe misses the point. You know absolutely nothing about LeBron's personal background or you would have mentioned it by now. Furthermore, none of this is relevant. LeBron is a better basketball player than Melo. It's not even close at this point. Melo is a highly paid professional and cannot use his background as an excuse/justification for doing something that is wrong, nor can anyone else.

Stern placing Melo on the All-Star team had nothing to do with the incident or forgiveness; Melo was the logical choice after seemingly half of the West's players got hurt. Notice that neither the fans nor the coaches voted Melo in, again--and I doubt that any of them were looking at census figures. All they have to do is watch the games.

Melo went to Syracuse, won a national title and was a lottery pick. How exactly has his background held him back? If you can play, scouts will find you anywhere, you will be drafted and you will even get multiple chances to fail (Ron Artest, Latrell Sprewell, etc.). Melo's reputation has gone down, not up, since he came into the NBA and it has nothing to do with Baltimore. He came into the league as an NCAA champion but has not played like a championship player.

Sheed felt that Z had fouled him previously, so when Z drove to the hoop he elbowed him in the head, opening up a huge gash that required stitches. Sheed was called for a flagrant foul immediately and the NBA later upgraded it to a flagrant foul two.

If a team ranks fourth in scoring and fourth worst is defense and has a sub .500 record it is very obvious why that team is losing--and it is not because of Najera.

At Saturday, March 31, 2007 4:31:00 PM, Blogger The Quest for the Ring said...

Melo reduced his shots and increased his rebounding and assists, and the result has been that the Nuggets have turned from being a winning team to a losing team. The Nuggets were 13-9 when Melo was shooting by instinct and without any limitations from the coach and all the outside critics such as Mr. David Friedman. Since Melo returned from the suspension, the Nuggets are 15-19. Since the all-star break, and with George Karl's and David Friedman's recommendations in place,the Nuggets are only 9-11. Oops, I think a few folks miscalculated and underestimated the importance of Melo's scoring for the Nuggets.

At Sunday, April 01, 2007 4:12:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Now it's my fault that the Nuggets are losing? The Nuggets' problems this year are:

1) Bad defense
2) Team's best player threw a sucker punch, got suspended for 15 games. You neglected to mention the team's record when Melo left them in the lurch for a month. He and the team have yet to recover from that setback.
3) Adjustment to loss of Andre Miller /Allen Iverson's playing style (not that the trade was bad but it takes time for the players to adjust--and it doesn't help when Melo gets himself suspended for 15 games).
4) Injuries to J.R. Smith, other key rotation players.

Karl's recommendation was not that Melo shoot less; it was that Melo take better shots and, more importantly, play defense.

We covered this territory in our earlier exchange. Denver is one of the highest scoring teams in the league; scoring points is NOT the team's problem. They are horrible defensively, which is why they will lose in the first round of the playoffs--the time of year when Melo's production bottoms out annually.


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